Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Diamond Butterfly Ring

Seen as a symbol of nobility, perfection and immortality, jade has a unique place in Chinese culture. It has been used to make ritual utensils as well as other items such as seals, snuff bottles and penholders. Viewed as the essence of heaven and earth and a symbolic link between the two, it has been a custom in Chinese societies to place jade cicadas in the mouths of the deceased to comfort their souls and help with their "rebirth."

People also like to wear jade ornaments, as they are believed to have the power to protect the wearers from misfortune and bring good luck, while wearing the jade is also thought to improve its quality and color as it absorbs oil from the skin. It is employed for hat or waistband ornaments, inlayed on Sword handles and scabbards and crafted into hairpins and pendants. The carving of such jade ornaments can be as simple as shaping a jade "coin" or as detailed and complicated as can be imagined, but the method of attaching a piece to a hat, belt or necklace is usually quite simple.

Instead of the traditional Chinese jade and macramé design, Chang adds other precious and semi-precious stones like diamonds, rubies, black onyx and red agate to her jade creations, "assembling" all the parts together with precious metals like gold and silver. The result can be just a small accessory that enables the original piece of jade to be worn as a pin or pendant, or it can be as complicated as a butterfly with movable wings and antenna.

The centerpiece stone of Chang's designs is usually white jade from the Ming or Qing dynasties (1368-1644 and 1644-1911 respectively) collected by her husband Yang Ping-shih. Yang, a professor of entomology at National Taiwan University, started collecting jade nearly 30 years ago when, while preparing teaching materials for a class on insects and arts, he hit upon the idea of using a few small jade butterflies and cicadas to illustrate his lecture.

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